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Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 03 Sep 2023, 21:29
by billen
Hi everyone!!

Reaching out in case any of you have come across this and can offer any advice or tips/training ideas. We have a Miniature Schnauzer, Pepper, who is 5 months old. She is great whenever she's home, indoors or outdoors. Potty training is going fantastic, she has been create-trained since day one, picks up on training almost immediately and is a joy to have around. She's not aggressive and we are trying to keep her on a consistent schedule making sure she eats well and gets plenty of time playing and training.

All this goes out the window the moment we take her out. Whenever we leave the house to go for a walk (the moment we leave our driveway), she becomes a different dog. All of a sudden she starts pulling the leash, barking excessively at everyone and everything (no matter how close or far they are, no matter if it's people or dogs). Her bark is very high-pitched and usually accompanied by a bit of whining (as if she's crying). No one can approach her as the barking becomes very loud and she starts pulling the leash like crazy. We have tried distracting her, giving her treats, teaching the "quiet" command, changing direction, you name it! Nothing seems to be working consistently (maybe works 2 out of 10 times) and even when it does, she is so fixated she will immediately go back to what she was previously focused on. She exhibits the same behaviour with our neighbours and friends whom she has previously met, so it's not new people only.

We are taking puppy classes, but due to her behaviour, we can't concentrate as we constantly need to be feeding her treats and distracting her or else she'll start barking at the other dogs. The trainer is not offering any useful advice and she is in fact ignoring us and using the other dogs to demonstrate tricks and techniques. The other dogs can't interact with her either.

Pepper is always on a leash by the way as we don't trust her yet to go without one.

I was wondering if you have any advice for us that might help with this. I've been doing a lot of research but don't know how best to help her. I fear she is afraid of something rather than excited but can't tell for sure. We have booked a meeting with a behavioural trainer but that's in mid-October due to their availability so I am trying to find out if there's anything we should be doing in the meantime. I don't want her to lose valuable time or have whatever is triggering this to build up and become difficult to resolve in the future. It is interesting that the moment she approaches the end of our driveway she starts behaving like that and if I move her back closer to the house she immediately calms down, which leads me to believe there's some sort of fear in her. However, when we say "Let's go for a walk" she shows signs of looking forward to it, waiting at the top of our staircase, and then jumping out of the door as soon as we open it.

Thank you in advance!

Re: Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 04 Sep 2023, 12:22
by zeta1454
Hi and welcome to the Forum :)

First I would advise leaving the puppy classes as the trainer is unable to help you (which indicates a lack of professionalism/ expertise on their part) and the experience is clearly having a negative effect on Pepper as well as doubtless being stressful for you too.

Has Pepper always shown this behaviour from first going out as I assume she hasn’t started outdoor trips at 5 months old? Although it is not a guarantee, the earlier a puppy is taken out and about the better in terms of experiencing the outside world, meeting people etc. This will usually start from 6 weeks old at the breeder’s but, if not, from 8 weeks plus when the puppy goes to a new home. It is not necessary for a puppy to be on the ground to do this ‘socialisation’ and generally will help avoid over-reactions to new experiences later.

However, dealing with the situation as it is now, until you can have the one-to-one with the behaviourist, I would work on the theory that it is fear that is behind the behaviour. Whether or not they have been socialised early in life, young puppies and dogs do experience ‘fear periods’ one of which often coincides with the hormone rush as they sexually mature and can lead to excitable and noisy behaviour and more extreme reactions to everyday experiences. These periods are short lived but do need to be managed carefully to avoid making the puppy anxious long term. Do not overwhelm or push Pepper into situations which she is finding over stimulating but try to encourage her to move forward calmly. If, for now the first hurdle is getting to the end of the driveway calmly, then I would try to work on just getting that far and gradually increase the distance; add in meeting people…. other dogs etc. as she becomes more confident. You do need to build on focus too - getting Pepper to focus on you whatever else is going on and you can practice this at home, in the garden regularly for just a few minutes a day, always rewarding her for her attention. Although you want her to go out and enjoy walks with you now, it is better to work on getting Pepper happy and less agitated before extending her outdoor experiences too much. While she is reacting in this way, a walk is going to be stressful and frustrating for you and reinforcing the behaviour in Pepper as she repeats it each time. She will already be getting aroused as she sees the end of the driveway and if adrenaline is surging, she will start barking, jumping around. Being off leash will not of itself resolve the problem (although many dogs are less agitated when not restrained) as you do want to be able to walk her on lead in places where dogs must be restrained and, for her own safety in areas where she might be liable to come into contact with other animals / traffic etc.

I am sure that other Forum members will be able to offer useful advice and support to you. Most of us have been through challenging experiences with our pups and it can seem daunting while you are going through it but almost always resolves happily in time. Have a browse through some of the topics in the puppy section on the Forum as you may find some tips and links there too :)

Re: Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 04 Sep 2023, 12:31
by Dawnspell
I had a lot of the same struggles with Jasper. Especially the people and fixating on things. He's still anxious about things in the world but so much better. Its good that she is still accepting treats even when feeling overwhelmed, Jasper found being in the garden so over stimulating that he couldn't even accept treats in the garden.

I stopped training classes because Jasper couldnt cope and it wasnt fun for me either. I think even now he would struggle in that situation.

I would try to avoid putting her in situations where you know she isnt going to like it or maybe have a bad experience until you have seen the behaviorist. Bad as well as good behaviors become a habit and can be hard to break.

Work on improving behaviors eg nose touch, watch me, 2 paws on something, in situations where she is going to manage it 9 out of 10 times not the 2 out of 10 before you start increasing the difficulty. So start in one room in the house, when shes mastered that move to different rooms, then garden, then driveway etc.
You can then use these as behaviours to get her attention when you want it at a later date once she has mastered them in easy situations. Since you have a point where you can see her behaviour change work on her doing training/games just before that point. You will find she will gain confidence and you will be able to get closer to the end of the drive. Could you drive to somewhere quiet and not really go for a walk but just sit and watch the world go by ? I still spend time at the end of a walk sitting in the back of the car with Jasper basically doing nothing ( except drinking my coffee :)) ) and rewarding him for ignoring things or breaking focus from something if I ask him to.

This is part of our training journey, its still ongoing with Jasper, he is a little monkey :(|) =))

Re: Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 04 Sep 2023, 16:44
by billen
Thank you both for the welcome and for your responses, they are very helpful. This forum is amazing, the wealth of information and knowledge is unbelievable.

I am inclined to take her out of the puppy classes, I was only hoping that they would help with her stress but it's clear that not only are they not helping but they are quite possibly making things worse. And, since we're not learning anything valuable either, why waste our time and effort by going there?

Pepper has been going out with us since the time she was 10 weeks old. We would take her out to parks, hiking, on car trips, and to restaurants and she was always quite OK. She wasn't sitting down and chilling, she was always on her feet smelling and watching but wouldn't react in this way. I think this behaviour has gradually developed, we can't honestly remember a time and place when something might have happened to her. We even had family staying with us for a week when she was around 3 months and although she was unsure about them in the beginning, she got used to them by the second day.

What I am getting from both of you is that we shouldn't be putting too much pressure on her and that we should be taking things slowly and this is exactly what we will be doing until we meet with the behaviourist. She is very focused when inside the house and in the back yard, we will need to gradually work on the other areas of the house. The driveway is what she perceives to be the "door" to the outside world so this is going to be our focus over the next few days.

Re: Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 05 Sep 2023, 17:50
by billen
Something interesting happened today and I wanted to share it as I think it will help add some context and potentially give others a light bulb moment. So, our cleaning lady came in today (coming every other week, not a new person to Pepper), we had Pepper on her house line and she went absolutely berserk. Started barking constantly and although she allowed the lady to approach her and sniff her hand, she did it while barking. We could not redirect her to her bed or draw her attention to her favourite chew stick. Then, we did a little experiment. We removed the house line and Pepper IMMEDIATELY left, stopped barking, went to her bed, grabbed the chew stick and stayed there quietly chewing away.

Re: Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 06 Sep 2023, 10:45
by zeta1454
That is interesting and does seem to tie-in with a ‘fear period’ reaction to me in that Pepper is clearly not really frightened of the cleaning lady but is feeling vulnerable when restrained in her presence. It is common for dogs of all ages to be more anxious when restrained if they are in a situation which they judge they may want to be able to escape from and can’t. Dogs will be more relaxed off lead in most circumstances but it is not always practical, safe or legal in our modern world for dogs to be off lead all the time. However, with Pepper this reaction is most likely occurring now (when it has not done so before) because of her age and growing sexual maturity. There is a paragraph in an article regarding ‘fear periods’ which may explain more ( although it is headed as occurring at 6-14 months this is a generalisation and Pepper is not far off the 6 month mark):

Second Fear Period: 6 to 14 Months

While the 8 to 12-week puppy fear period is, in some cases, hardly noticed by owners, the second fear period appears to have a much bigger impact…..This fear period is believed to be tied to the dog's sexual maturity and growth spurts….. Often, this stage is also known as "teenage flakiness," according to Ellen Dodge in her article "Critical Periods in Canine Development," published in the Weimaraner Magazine. October (1989)….

In the wild, dogs at this age are allowed to go on hunts with the rest of the pack. At this stage, it is important for them to learn to stick with the pack for safety, but they also need to learn about fear since they need fear for survival purposes. The message to the puppy is to run away if something unfamiliar approaches them.

Reactivity levels rise during this stage, causing the dog to act defensively and become protective and more territorial. Owners often report the fear seems to pop out of nowhere. Dogs appear fearful of novel stimuli or stimuli met before but that did not trigger significant reactions.”

The suggestions to help the puppy through this phase are pretty much as suggested above:

Continue socializing as much as possible but without exposing your dog to overwhelming situations
Create positive associations through counter-conditioning
Build confidence through training and confidence-building sports and exercises
Avoid traumatic experiences during this delicate phase..”

The article is on this link: ... ds-in-Dogs

Re: Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 28 Jan 2024, 04:01
by billen
Happy New Year all!

I wanted to update everyone on how Pepper is doing; unfortunately, it's not a good update. And I apologise in advance for the lengthy post.

Pepper is now 10 months old and still has the same problems - barking excessively, pulling the leash, and reacting to everything.

She is unable to walk more than 1 meter without starting to pull, she barks at everything (even people and dogs she's seen many times before) and she reacts to everything (cars, dogs, people, bikers, bikes, etc.).

We have tried the Absolute Dogs courses, we have taken puppy classes, and we have started daycare and daycare training, but nothing seems to be working. We have read books and watched YouTube videos from at least 12-15 different trainers, we have tried high-value treats, clicker training, and different commands, all with zero results.
What worries me is that Pepper is not making any progress at all when it comes down to those areas (not even the slightest). Whereas everything else she's quick to learn and execute without a problem. She's potty trained, crate trained, sits and stays down. Even her door manners are excellent (she learned that in a day!).

She's great when we are at home, our backyard and our driveway. She's great at the daycare, playing with some dogs, and ignoring others, but still coexists with all of them. She's super sweet with the staff there too. But that's about it .. once we try taking her anywhere else she's a completely different dog - she's uncontrollable. If we call her, she'll listen, she'll stop, she'll look at us, she'll even sit. But the moment we take a step forward, she'll start pulling. We still haven't found a solution to her barking - ignoring her doesn't work, asking her to be quiet doesn't work, and removing her from the situation that triggers her doesn't work (she's fixated even if we bring her back inside, hold her, etc.). And we haven't found a solution for her reactivity either.

In all of our research (even the people at Absolute Dogs keep reiterating it), they keep saying that we need to practice everything at home first and then, slowly, start introducing the dog to new environments and reinforce the training. Our challenge is that Pepper can master everything at home super quickly, but we are unable to make any progress outside the house. So, it's impossible to take our learnings and apply them in different situations and scenarios. For example, we have started trying to walk her since the 1st of January. Every day, 3 to 4 times a day, we will take her out and use high-value treats, a harness and a clicker to teach her how to walk on a leash. It's almost been a month and we haven't even made it to our neighbour's house (we share a driveway with our neighbour, we live THAT close to each other!).

Now, when it comes to visitors that's a whole different story. Pepper needs to be crated, regardless of who comes to visit and whether is someone she knows or not. If she's out, she'll start barking and won't stop no matter what. If we crate her, she'll still bark but eventually tire herself out and stop. If we leave her out of her crate and give her a chew stick, she'll take it and completely ignore the visitors. But, once she eats it, she'll start barking again!

We are at a loss .. her behaviour significantly impacts us as we can no longer have people over, go on hikes, visit stores and restaurants or even greet people outside or talk to our neighbours. It's taking a toll on our social and personal lives and although we love Pepper very much, we don't know what to do to help her.

Any further advice would be much appreciated!

Thank you!

Re: Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 28 Jan 2024, 11:27
by zeta1454
Happy New Year!
Sorry to hear that you are still struggling with some aspects of Pepper’s behaviour. Do bear in mind that she is still young and any deep seated behaviour patterns are going to take time to resolve. It is hard to avoid becoming frustrated and despairing at times when despite all your efforts there seems to be little change but patience is key.

I think you need to understand what is triggering her behaviour so as to start working intensively on modifying or managing that and a behaviourist should be able to help you there. Generalised training may not be the answer at this stage. What have their suggestions been as to what is triggering her reactions?

I am not a professional behaviourist or trainer so I can only make suggestions from my experience (30 years of having miniature schnauzers in the family including breeding them and following their progress in their new homes). Some of the behaviour you describe makes me wonder if she is over protective / guarding you and your partner. I have also known dogs who walk fine and calmly on lead when they are on their own but become much more reactive if they are walked with a sibling or just another dog staying as a guest and the same guarding behaviour can be shown when visitors arrive at the house. I know in your case that the walking is not with another dog but there could be an element of protective guarding behaviour in her barking when she is with you. It sounds as though there is not a problem at the day care which is not her home environment and she is with people she may not feel she needs to ‘protect’. When she is on lead the behaviour will be likely to increase as she is in a restrained position where she may feel more vulnerable.

The fact that so much of Pepper’s behaviour is brilliant from what you have said as regards other dogs and people at day care and when she is on her own with you makes it seem to me that there is some element at least of over-protectiveness in her attitude to you and your partner and some of this may be genetic / hard-wired but should be able to be worked on with professional help.

I don’t think the walking on lead issue is that she cannot understand how to walk calmly on lead but that she is overwhelmed with the need to look out for you and concerned that she cannot adequately guard you if she is restrained. It is to my mind connected to the same problem when you have visitors and was highlighted by the incident you posted about previously when her reaction to the cleaning lady was quite different when on a line.

Maybe you could see if someone at the day care would try to walk Pepper on lead for you (when you are out of sight) and see if she will behave any differently. That may give you some indication if the issue is protectiveness of you and not a problem with lead walking generally.

There is so much about Pepper that sounds excellent from your description that I feel you should not despair. She is still young and many dogs do change their behaviour to being calmer and more settled as they mature. Do avoid having her spayed until she is well over a year old as the loss of hormones can make an anxious or reactive dog worse.The other thing to bear in mind is that miniature schnauzers are vocal dogs - barking is hard-wired into their genetics in many cases and it is impossible to totally eliminate that. You will have to find a way to settle her (longer lasting chew toy?) when visitors come and see if she will engage with the visitors too rather than trying to keep her away. The problem sometimes can be that when people back off or keep away when a dog barks, this reinforces their behaviour and, if Pepper has no interest in the visitors anyway she may be more inclined to bark at them. If she knows they come bringing treats for her or want to play with her, she may be more likely to settle once the initial excitement of their arrival is over.

These are just a few suggestions but I would try to find a behaviourist that can assess exactly what is triggering Pepper’s reactions and maybe work with you also to perhaps change what or how you are reacting at these times. Changing behaviour patterns always involves both the dog and their family - not just the dog :)

Re: Miniature anxiety (?) when outside

Posted: 04 Mar 2024, 20:31
by billen
My apologies, I thought I had posted a response to the last message but I just realised it was never posted...

Thank you for your advice and response, we did go through a few challenging weeks but are slowly (very slowly) getting to a better place now.

Unfortunately, we never got to the root of the problem with Pepper's behaviour. The training we did through the daycare was pretty much useless. We had asked them to concentrate on Pepper's behaviour and they spent the first 2 months teaching her how to sit, which she's been doing flawlessly since day one. We live in a small town in South Ontario, Canada so our options are limited.

We have now enlisted the help of a trainer/behaviourist, who is coming to our place and teaching Pepper and ourselves how to handle different situations. So far, we are only seeing glimpses of progress, but that's miles better from before so we are a bit more optimistic.

Pepper's behaviour can be described by three words: overprotective, spoiled, bratty! LOL

We are focusing a lot on discipline and correction, learning not to tolerate childish behaviour and educating Pepper that it is not worth getting overexcited and over-aroused by everything happening around her.
We also realised she's been abusing treats and is exhibiting purely transactional behaviour where she will do something, grab the treat and immediately break from the command. So now, we are handing out fewer treats but praising verbally and physically (petting, rubbing ears, etc.). Too bad she doesn't enjoy playing with toys and can't use that as motivation.

Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your advice and patience and let you know how we are getting on with Pepper. It's a journey, that's for sure. And she's way smarter than we give her credit for! :-)